Recipe: Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits with Fermented Jalapenos
It’s been a cold, grey weekend. You know the kind of weather – gloomy enough that you never fully feel warm yet warm enough that it isn’t quite cozy weather. It’s just kind of dank, dark and droopy. It’s that kind of weather.
Last night we decided to watch movies, curl up with a blanket and make a big pot of chili. I’m a giant fan of having some form of bread to dip into chili and last night we made these awesome biscuits:
We fermented jalapeno peppers in the summer (similar to this recipe but stopped short of blending and adding vinegar for hot sauce) and use them for everything from regular cooking to these cookies. They are a pleasant combination of hot, sour and savory.
We also used rendered beef fat for this recipe. It’s similar to lard (which is from a pig) and can be used in the place of butter for many things (although it’s smoking point is much higher so it can be used in higher-heat cooking). It’s consistency is slightly thicker than butter and it’s a great alternative to commercially produced lard and vegetable shortening.
It’s biggest downside is that it can be hard to find: an old-fashioned butcher store (like Sausage Partners, where we got ours). You’ll have to ask if they have it (it’s rarely on display) and you could replace it with lard or duck fat. If you’re really stuck, you could also buy duck breasts for a wonderful meal and use the rendered fat (like in this recipe) for the biscuits.
Lastly, these are really easy to make. The biggest secret to biscuits is to touch them as little as possible and prevent the fats from melting with the heat of your hands. The real magic of biscuits occurs when ‘clumps’ of butter and fat remain in the dough (as opposed to a smooth dough like you would make for bread). The two ‘secrets’ I use to do this are: working with cold fat and grating it when necessary. I explain how to do this in the recipe below.
- 2 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons frozen butter
- 2 tablespoons rendered fat (cold is best)
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1-2 tablespoons fermented hot peppers (more or less as you like). Include a small bit of brine as well.
- 0.25 cups of old cheddar grated super fine (I used my microplane which continues to be my favorite kitchen gadget for more than 2 years)
- 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
- Preheat your oven to 450.
- Toss the dry ingredients (they are the first 4) in a large mixing bowl.
- Grate the butter into the flour (you can use a large cheese grated like we do with pie but I prefer the microplane).
- Stir the mixture with the handle of a spoon (this prevents your hands from melting the butter) so that all of the small pieces of butter are individually coated in flour.
- Chop your fat fine (grating didn’t work for me but it was easy to create small ‘pebbles’ with a knife).
- Stir the fat with the handle of a spoon into the mixture and coat with flout.
- Add molasses, stir to incorporate.
- Chop your fermented peppers, stir to incorporate.
- Add the cheese, use the handle of your spoon to stir and incorporate.
- Create a ‘well’ in the center of the mixture, pour in the buttermilk. Stir with the spoon to incorporate until it won’t come together any further. It will be sticky and not completely incorporated.
- Rinse your hands with very cold water for about 30 seconds. This will help cool them (you could also use a glove but you won’t be touching the dough that much.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface and fold it onto itself (incorporating any stubborn bits into the fold) 5-6 times. It should be a sticky dough at this point.
- Roll the dough into a 1-inch thickness. Cut 2-inch biscuits from the dough (I used a hearty wineglass to do so).
- Place each biscuit on a cookie sheet and ensure each biscuit just touches the one next to them (they won’t stick together).
- You can reassemble the excess dough and make extra biscuits from it but they won’t be as flaky as the ones that have been worked less – so know which ones came from the scraps and use them for testing the ‘doneness’ as they cook.
- If you wanted to increase the fermented flavor, you could glaze the biscuits with brine at this point.
- Place in the oven. They should turn golden and be cooked throughout in 15 minutes. I tested in 12, separated them and could see the sides were still a bit doughy. I left them separated and they finished cooking 4 minutes later.
Who’s making biscuits tonight?